Past Medical History Example

A past medical history provides crucial health information about a patient’s medical conditions, illnesses, surgeries, hospitalizations, injuries, screenings, and other important medical events in their life. It is a vital part of the complete patient health record taken by healthcare providers during appointments and hospital visits.

Current Health ConditionsIdentify conditions needing management or that impact treatmentDiabetes, heart disease, etc can impact drug choices
Past Illnesses & SurgeriesAllergies to medications, foods, and latex can severely harm or kill if re-exposedA family history of heart disease warrants earlier/more frequent monitoring
Family Health HistoryUnderstand genetic risks to guide appropriate screeningDetermine if connected to a current issue or risk factors involved
AllergiesPrevent administration of substances causing allergic reactionsAvoid repeat/unneeded screenings if up-to-date
Medications and SupplementsEvaluate potential medication interactions and effectsCurrent meds like blood thinners require adjustments to new meds/dosages
Immunization HistoryDetermine needed updates for preventative healthMissing key immunizations may warrant catch-up if risk factors present
Screening TestsAvoid repeat/unneeded screenings if up to dateGetting repeated pap smears if already conducted leads to unnecessary testing
High Risk BehaviorsGuide appropriate lifestyle counseling or interventionCurrent tobacco use would require counseling on cessation treatment options
Mental Health HistoryIdentify support needs and conditions affecting carePast abuse or trauma can impact patient-provider interactions

Obtaining an accurate and thorough past medical history enables providers to make well-informed care decisions and recommendations for a patient. It prevents errors, unnecessary tests, procedures, and duplication of services. A comprehensive medical background gives essential context to the patient’s overall health background.

Key Components of a Past Medical History

A comprehensive past medical history gathered by a healthcare provider may explore numerous aspects of a patient’s health, including:

Chronic Illnesses

  • Chronic conditions – Such as diabetes, asthma, hypertension, thyroid disorders, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety, etc. Knowing the diagnosis, severity, duration, and control of any chronic disease is crucial.

Prior Surgeries

Previous surgeries – Such as appendectomy, gallbladder removal, tonsillectomy, heart bypass, knee/hip replacement, etc. The date, reason, hospital, and surgeon should be noted.


Hospital admissions – When and where the patient was hospitalized and the reason for admission. This includes both inpatient hospital stays as well as outpatient procedures.


  • Current prescriptions – All medications, vitamins, supplements, and dosages the patient is actively taking.
  • Previous prescriptions – Medications that have been discontinued, including the reason for stopping.


  • Medication allergies – Any prescription or over-the-counter medicines that cause an allergic reaction. The specific symptoms experienced should be documented.
  • Food/environmental allergies – Reactions to certain foods, latex, animals, seasonal allergens, etc. The severity of reactions is important to note.


  • Vaccination history – A record of which immunizations the patient has received and approximate dates if known. This includes childhood vaccinations and annual flu shots.

Family History

Relevant family medical history – Health conditions and causes of death for close blood relatives. Certain illnesses like cancer or heart disease may have a genetic link.

Screening Tests

Results of past screening exams – Such as colonoscopies, mammograms, prostate exams, skin checks, eye exams, etc. Both normal and abnormal findings are significant.

Lifestyle Factors

Past and present smoking status and alcohol use.

Other Factors

  • History of communicable diseases, blood transfusions, recent travel, and other exposures that may impact health.
  • Congenital conditions present from birth.
  • Accidents, injuries, trauma.
  • For women – obstetric history including pregnancies, births, miscarriages, and menstrual status.

Importance of an Accurate Past Medical History

Providing accurate and thorough details about one’s medical background enables healthcare providers to make well-informed care decisions and personalized recommendations for tests, medications, procedures, referrals, and lifestyle changes. Documenting a comprehensive past medical history:

  • Prevents medical errors, unnecessary tests and procedures. It avoids duplication of services already received.
  • Gives context to new symptoms reported by recognizing patterns and connections with prior diagnoses.
  • Allows ordering screening tests based on age, health risks, and previous results.
  • Determines which medications may be prescribed safely based on known allergies, reactions, and existing prescriptions.
  • Facilitates coordination of care between different providers that a patient may see.
  • Provides a legal record documenting the care received by the patient.

Patients should make an effort to remember and report any new or ongoing medical developments each time they visit a healthcare provider or facility. Even routine dental cleanings, eye exams, and gynecological visits provide valuable health data. Patients may keep their up-to-date medical history summary to share. However, it is still important to mention updates directly to the treating provider as well. An accurate past medical history helps create a more complete picture of a patient’s overall health story.

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